Three plead to charges stemming from federal drug probe - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Three plead to charges stemming from federal drug probe

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Authorities say three people involved in a major drug trafficking enterprise have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Huntington.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Brandon Appleton, 25, of Rand and Ariell Varney, 23, of Wayne, admitted to federal drug violations, while William Isiah Petties, 33, of Huntington, pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm. Petties, who has prior felony convictions, is prohibited by law from owning or possessing a gun.

The three were among 15 people named in a 34-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in March. A superseding 40-count indictment returned April 29 targeted Kenneth Dewitt Newman, the alleged ringleader, and 10 of the remaining defendants.

*Appleton admitted to possession of cocaine and the drug MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, with the intent to distribute, Goodwin said.

On January 20, Goodwin said investigators working with the Drug Enforcement Administration searched the residence of Kenneth Dewitt Newman, also known as “K-Kutta,” at 1814 Artisan Ave., Huntington.  Goodwin said Appleton, who was in the residence at the time it was searched, had a sandwich-style bag in his possession that contained smaller bags of both MDMA and cocaine, which he admits he'd intended to sell. He said investigators determined Appleton had distributed drugs from roughly December 2013 until the January search of the residence, which police said also yielded amounts of cocaine and MDMA, as well as heroin, marijuana, and prescription pills.

Appleton faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine at sentencing.

*William Isiah Petties, 33, of Huntington, West Virginia, admitted to possessing a firearm even though his felony history prevents him from carrying a firearm.

Goodwin said the Drug Enforcement administration and local authorities executed a search warrant at 1130 28th Street, Huntington, in connection with the Newman investigation. When the warrant was executed Petties was outside the residence, which belonged to his girlfriend and where he frequently stayed, he said. During the search, agents located a loaded Springfield .40 caliber pistol, which was owned by Petties’ girlfriend but which he jointly possessed and over which he had joint control, Goodwin said. In a statement taken after the search, Petties admitted that he possessed the firearm. He'd been convicted in Cabell County circuit court of aggravated robbery, a felony, in 2000 and, as a result, was prohibited from possessing the firearm.

Petties faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine at sentencing.

*Ariell Varney, 23, of Wayne, West Virginia, admitted to possession with intent to distribute MDMA (Ecstasy).

Varney had been pulled over in November for a traffic violation in the 600 block of 8th Street in Huntington when a drug dog gave a positive alert at her trunk. During a search of the car a pill bottle was found with an empty capsule plus a similar capsule containing a substance that field tested positive for MDMA as well as eight other tablets with no markings, Goodwin said.  At the time of the traffic stop, Goodwin said Varney was being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration for her connection to the alleged drug network. Varney, who had been living in Miami at the time, is believed to have supplied the group with MDMA, Goodwin said.

Varney faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine when she is sentenced.

All three are slated for sentencing Aug. 18 by Chief U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers.

Newman, meanwhile, now faces 23 counts alleging he dealt cocaine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, crack, heroin, MDMA (Ecstasy) and marijuana in the Huntington area over a four year period, and that he possessed a firearm during commission of a drug deal, conspired to distribute drugs and aided and abetted the distribution of drugs.

A plea hearing for Newman is slated for 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 27.